So, it’s summertime. Many parents I know (including myself) know summer provides a great opportunity for catching up with all the areas in school your child might need a little extra work in. As parents and teachers, we also know some of what they learned last school year seems to fall out of their brains over the summer, likely to make room for video game strategy and summer camp memories.
I participated in a podcast with Dr. Don Hodges of the University of Texas at San Antonio, Director of the Institute of Music Research and Coordinator of Music Education, professor of music education to graduate and undergraduate students, not to mention the orchestra conductor. (So with that title, you can tell knows what he’s talking about!)
I don’t know any children who eagerly sit down for multiplication drills in July and August, even cleverly disguised as bright colored and cheery workbooks. But I do know that books are, for the most part, a different story. Think summer reading programs and incentives at the library. I remember participating over 35 years ago, and they are still going on today.
So, back to the title question. Want a better reader? The answer, according to the experts, is music. Simply listening to music does not make you smarter. But as Dr. Hodges points out, when children are actively making music and participating in music, they tend to do better overall.
As parents, we tend to spend time on drills and programs (remember the “bright and cheery workbooks?), but the actual spending time in making music making is more beneficial, not to mention more enjoyable.
Anything that we are actively involved in causes the brain to re-wire itself over time (and once again, I’ll give this oft-repeated fact – music is the only activity that engages the entire brain simultaneously).
According to research studies, children who took music classes or lessons had actual measurable changes in their brains after the classes. But is what even more interesting is that certain areas of the brain that had the largest change, one being language (this includes reading).
Successful acquisition of reading and writing is dependent on a solid foundation of oral language skills. Music gives children a lot of those oral language skills. Music allows them to experiment with grammar rules, rhyming patterns, breaking down sounds (auditory discrimination), cadence and rhythm, as well as symbol interpretation – all components of reading.
Music has long been used in Speech and Language Therapy in helping brain damaged people to regain the ability to speak. This “music therapy” works because language and music share some areas of the brain, and are next door neighbors in other parts of the brain.
Music, unlike sitting alone or with a grownup and struggling through a book, takes place in a social learning environment. (Even musicians, who practice for hours and hours alone, come together in a group to rehearse and perform.) The pleasure that comes from making and creating something that is yours and sharing that experience with others is highly satisfying and motivating. And when learning happens successfully, children are self-driven to learn harder and more complex ideas.
The Practical Part
So… piano lessons for six month olds? Put the headphones on your 3 year old and turning on the Haydn? Nope. Research proves what parents know – the key is the interaction between grownups and little ones. Birth to 7 years is a critical learning period. And children learn better with their special grownups by their side, singing and playing and being musically engaged with them. (And they want you there, too!) That’s why we have home activity books in Kindermusik, even when they start coming to part of class (like Imagine That) on their own.
Want a better reader? Actively engage with your child in making and creating music in a social environment. Kindermusik (of course!) is a great way to do just that.
Click here to listen to the whole podcast.
-posted by Miss Analiisa, who needs to post this and go actively participate in two certain children’s violin and flute practices.